Saturday 4th April – 12:45 – Emirates Stadium
Arsenal host Liverpool looking to continue their fine Premier League form, having won their last six games. Since losing 2-1 to Tottenham in February, Arsene Wenger’s side have won nine of the last 10 games in all competitions. This red-hot form meant the French boss won the Premier League manager of the month award for the 14th time in his career, with Olivier Giroud winning the player award. Meanwhile Liverpool are coming off the back of a first league defeat since mid-December. The Reds’ were beaten 2-1 by Manchester United at Anfield before the international period and now sit five points off their bitter rivals in the race for the fourth Champions League spot. The Gunners currently sit third in the league table, just a point behind Manchester City, whilst Brendan Rodgers’ side are fifth, five points off United and six away from their hosts tomorrow lunchtime. The Reds are in action again on Wednesday as they welcome Blackburn Rovers for an FA Cup Quarter-Final replay, a game that could double in importance if they lose at the Emirates Stadium.
The Key Battle: Olivier Giroud vs Dejan Lovren
Arsenal and Liverpool have the worst defences in the top six, and this fixture has previously seen Andrei Arshavin and Julio Baptista each net four goals in a game, so the chances of a 0-0 are unlikely.
Problematically for Liverpool, this likelihood of goals galore coincides with Martin Skrtel’s suspension. The Slovakian has been virtually ever-present this season, and his absence means the unconvincing Dejan Lovren will play at the heart of defence.
The Croatian has failed to impress since joining from Southampton in the summer, and what’s worse, he may not be 100% fit when he lines up at the Emirates Stadium, having just recovered from an abdominal problem.
He faces the in-form striker in the Premier League at the moment, Olivier Giroud who has just picked up the Barclays Player of the Month award as well as the IFNS accolade too.
He scored a total of five goals in March, as well as grabbing an assist, to assert himself as one of the league’s most underrated goalscorers.
Indeed, he is only six strikes behind Diego Costa and Harry Kane at the top of the scoring charts, so underestimate him at your peril. The Frenchman was also on target for his country during the international break, as Les Bleus beat Denmark 2-0.
- The Gunners will assess forward Danny Welbeck, who has a slight knee problem which he picked up in England’s win over Lithuania.
- Mikel Arteta, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby won’t play despite returning to training, but Jack Wilshere has not been ruled out.
- Arsene Wenger has decisions to make in defence as Nacho Monreal and Gabriel Paulista have been keeping out regulars Kieran Gibbs and Laurent Koscielny in recent matches.
- Liverpool duo Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel begin three-game suspensions but Lucas is back following a thigh injury.
- Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, Dejan Lovren and Jordon Ibe are all in contention to start after returning to training this week.
- Raheem Sterling could be handed a central role alongside Philippe Coutinho if Lallana doesn’t make it, allowing Lazar Markovic to play on the right.
Arsenal wins = 71 / Liverpool wins = 76 / Draws = 51
Last Meeting: Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal (21st December 2014)
Martin Skrtel’s equaliser seven minutes into stoppage time gave Liverpool a fully deserved point against Arsenal at Anfield. Referee Michael Oliver had added nine minutes on after a lengthy second-half delay when Skrtel required treatment for a head wound sustained in an accidental clash with Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman looked to have sent Arsenal on the way to avenging their 5-1 thrashing at Anfield last season when he put them ahead, Mathieu Debuchy having equalised seconds after Philippe Coutinho gave Liverpool the lead on the stroke of half-time. But Skrtel, heavily bandaged and with Liverpool reduced to 10 men after substitute Fabio Borini was sent off late on, rose to meet Adam Lallana’s corner in the 97th minute and power a header past Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny in front of the Kop.
Stat of the Match
This game has produced five Premier League hat-tricks – more than any other fixture.
Where can I watch it?
As it is Saturday’s early kick-off, BT Sport which show the game live from North London, with their coverage beginning at midday. The highlights will then be shown on BBC One’s Match of the Day at 10:30pm.
My Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool
Liverpool may only have lost one league game since the turn of the year, but rumours surrounding Raheem Sterling and their FA Cup destiny around the corner could create huge nerves in the Reds camp, especially as this is a game they can’t afford to lose either. Arsenal are high on confidence and will hope the international break hasn’t halted their form. I don’t think it will have, as with a near fully-fit squad to choose from for the first time since dinosaurs, the Gunners should run out 2-1 winners, with goals coming from Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud. The Reds’ goalscorer will be Daniel Sturridge, but it won’t be enough…